Author Archives: William Lewis

19th Century Philosophy: How to make it coherent and interesting?

The 19th Century Philosophically is full of exciting developments that changed our world and that changed philosophy.  The problem that I’ve been having as I work to put together a syllabus for a seminar on it in the spring is that I am tired of a 19th Century course that either just shows the development of German Idealism or that is a hodgepodge of stuff from the aforesaid idealists, utilitarians, darwinians, pragmatists, and positivists (though I think the latter approach better represents the century).  I want to make my course both coherent and interesting, while being faithful to the diversity of approaches found in the anglo-american and european traditions during this time.  My solution follows.  I would love comments that would help me to flesh out this idea (maybe suggesting primary texts that I might use) or to firm the idea up a bit and to focus it. Basically, what I want to do is look at the relationship between scientific knowledge and political power in the 19th Century.  I am thinking of using Rabinow’s French Modern to give some context and to look particularly at theory of and for colonization.  In addition to this anchor text, I plan on looking at Fichte’s Foundations of Natural Right, Bentham on laws, the panopticon and some of his plans for housing of the poor, Saint-Simon, Comte (of course), Marx and Engels, Mill on philosophy of science, and Herbert Spencer.  I would love some other figures to check out, especially women philosophers as this list is unfortunately bereft of them.  Will the idea fly?  Am I not really doing 19th Century Philosophy if I follow through with this plan?  Will I have harmed my students’ philosophical education if I don’t teach Hegel and Nietzsche? read more...

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CFP: Roundtable on Marx’s Capital, February 24-27, 2011

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy is pleased to issue a

for a Roundtable on Marx’s Capital

Texas A&M University,
College Station, Texas
February 24-27, 2011

SSPP’s second Roundtable will explore Volume One of Marx’s Capital (1867).  We chose this text because the resurgence in references to and mentions of Marx – provoked especially by the financial crisis, but presaged by the best-seller status of Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Marx’s surprising victory in the BBC’s “greatest philosopher” poll – has only served to highlight the fact that there have not been any new interpretive or theoretical approaches to this book since Althusser’s in the 1960s.

The question that faces us is this: Does the return of Marx mean that we have been thrust into the past, such that long “obsolete” approaches have a newfound currency, or does in mean, on the contrary, that Marx has something new to say to us, and that new approaches to his text are called for?

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CFP: Politics and Ontology


SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) in 2010

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to:

Politics and Ontology

We seek to explore and challenge the hypothesis that all political theory presupposes an ontology. From the presumption of universal rationality, to the potency of class consciousness, to the privileges shaped by the social existence of race, gender and sexuality, political order always is or implies an ontological order. In many respects, the ontological question is the political question. Struggles for political change are as much about the expansion (or contraction) of shared ontological categories as they are about the rewriting of legislation or the redistribution of power and resources. The traditional allocation of rights, for instance, has been determined almost entirely on the basis of who, or what, one is presumed to be. While ontology and politics share a long, interconnected history, for much of modern history the connection between them has been downplayed or denied, since liberalism is premised on bracketing such supposedly insoluble and inherently conflictual metaphysical questions. In recent decades, however, this has changed. The explicit investigation of political ontology has taken center stage and, as a consequence, what we understand to be political or ontological has changed as well. Politics is no longer limited to the state, but permeates all of social existence to include the terrain of imagination, emotions, and representation. Ontology is no longer an ultimate foundation, but is constituted through relations of power and affects. In the works of such authors as Gilles Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz, Giorgio Agamben, William Connolly, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Jean-Luc Nancy, Antonio Negri, and many others, the subject of political ontology has surfaced in an array of new formulations. For this panel, we invite papers that extend this investigation or that challenge this resurgence, both within the context of work that has already been done and in anticipation of work yet to be conceived.

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CFP: Politics of Hope / Politics of Fear


The Eastern APA (American Philosophical Association) in 2010

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy invites papers for two conference panels.We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to: 

Politics of Hope / Politics of Fear.

Hobbes famously wrote, “The passion to be reckoned upon is fear.” The connection thus established between the state and fear has been the basis not only of various political regimes, but of political theory by philosophers such as Spinoza, Hegel, Arendt and Massumi. In an age of color-coded warning systems, terrorism, and pandemic disease, the essential link between fear and politics seems beyond dispute, and demands investigation: How does fear work? Does it always reinforce authority, as Hobbes imagined? Can there be a revolt of fear? What is the connection between the fear that the masses fear and the fear they evoke in the corridors of power? More importantly, what remains of fear’s opposite, hope, in this Hobbesian world? How can hope function in a world overrun by fear? Does hope require a vision of a better world? Is there anything beyond the relation of hope and fear, a politics beyond the vacillation of these affects? read more...

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